Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Benefits Underpayments – And To Think That Some People Argue For More Government

It appears that the British government is incapable even at giving away free money. At which point we do have to wonder at the intelligence – even humanity – of those who argue that what Britain really needs is more tender ministrations from these incompetents. But that is the general argument we’re getting, isn’t it? We must have government running the trains, the water and power systems, nestling ever deeper into the crannies of the difficult and complicated parts of life. Even when they cannot actually manage to dole out free cash:

A Tory minister has come under fire for praising the “good housekeeping” of the Department of Work and Pensions after staff spotted a mistake which left tens of thousands of sick and disabled people out of pocket.

During an urgent question in the House of Commons on Thursday, minister for disabled people Sarah Newton admitted that the large-scale underpayments were a “dreadful administrative error” in the department that “should not have happened”.

But the Conservative MP sparked cries of disbelief from the benches when she went on to defend civil servants caught up in the scandal, telling the House: “In fact, it was the good housekeeping of the DWP that spotted the scale of the error.

Yes, that’s a comparison that’s not really going to work. Despite the truth there, that they did spot their own error, perhaps not le mot juste. But what is it that actually happened?

Questions have been raised from benefits claimants after the government revealed that 180,000 people are entitled to back-payments following years of errors.

Calculation mistakes were made during the process of moving people from incapacity benefit and severe disability allowance on to employment and support allowance (ESA).

The average rebate is about £5,000.

Government cannot do sums. Which, given that they deal with some £700 billion a year – perhaps 40% of everything – isn’t a good thought.

An extra £1.67bn is to be paid to tens of thousands of disabled benefit claimants after years of underpayments, the government has revealed.

Even for government that’s a fair chunk of change.

So, what can we learn from this? That government cannot actually handle a calculator. Despite they being the people who write the rules they’re incapable of actually following them. Of writing a cheque for the correct amount of money to those who have been promised it.

Yet there are those who seriously propose that these very same people are able to know – calculate and then check upon – the correct number of calories there should be in a pizza?

The best argument against any expansion of government is a consideration of how well they do at the tasks they already undertake. Which is why it always surprises that the British are not anarchists to a man, woman and indeterminate.

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5 years ago

Allegedly the errors were made when moving people onto the system which was launched in 2007-8 so of course the media is blaming the Conservatives who took power in 2010

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
5 years ago

A pendant writes: Confederacy of Dunces is the book title, Confederation is still free.

5 years ago

The missus works for a branch of the civil service and she has first hand experience that it’s populated by people who are fuckwits.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
5 years ago
Reply to  MrYan

Ditto (only briefly for my Missus, she couldn’t stand it). Her reports (and my experience from occasional consultancy gigs) suggest that there are about 25% hard-working, dedicated types with a public service ethos; 50% lead-swingers; and 25% cnuts (management) – but you get some of those last in every office. The real problem is that there’s no way of culling the 50%, unlike in private enterprise – and they know it.

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